The business casual dress code is more common than ever, as most workplaces today have become more relaxed. Of course, this doesn't mean you're free to wear whatever you want to the office. There are actually some unwritten rules you will need to follow.
We have put together a guide to modern office dress in order to help you better understand the business casual dress code. So sit back and learn more about the history, discover the key components to a business casual wardrobe, and get up to speed on the unwritten ground rules you need to abide.
The History Of Business Casual Dress
While business casual dress is associated with the 1990s—a time when hard-line standards started to become more flexible—the deep roots of this dress code actually go back to Hawaii.
In Hawaii, they often wear a shirt known as an Aloha shirt (we call it the Hawaiian shirt). While most people consider them casual, they're actually considered dress clothing in Hawaii. Since it is oftentimes impractical to wear a suit and tie in the islands' hot tropical climate, it makes sense that locals would adopt this as an acceptable form of office attire.
It was in 1962 that the Hawaiian Fashion Guild would start promoting Hawaiian shirts for work as a way to support the local clothing industry. Later, there was a campaign for state companies to allow employees to wear these shirts each Friday for several months out of the year. Before long, Aloha shirts would become acceptable workwear all the time, and soon the trend spread to California and beyond.
What followed was the relaxed attitude and style of the 1990s, which fueled the business casual dress code for work. And today, as fashion continues to progress, business casual attire—including custom suits and custom dress shirts—isn't just acceptable for the office; the more relaxed style can look great on you, too.
Key Components Of A Business Casual Wardrobe
So what exactly makes up a business casual wardrobe? Here's a look at the pieces that usually work well for a business casual atmosphere.
Business Casual Jackets:
Business Casual Sweaters and Shirts: While you'll never go wrong with a custom-fitted suit when you head to work, the most popular business casual jackets are sport coats and blazers. They are perfect for days when you have meetings, and they look great in navy blue, grey, and black.
Cardigans, V-neck sweaters, button-down shirts, and polo shirts are all generally acceptable within the business casual dress code. While white shirts are the most formal option, you can also shake things up by going with tops in other colors as well.
Business Casual Bottoms:
For bottoms that are acceptable for the modern office, a wide range of casual trousers and dress slacks will do just fine. Colors like gray, navy, khaki, black, and even medium blue work well. For Casual Friday, you may even get away with wearing a pair of nice, dark jeans.
Business Casual Footwear:
While black oxfords are a bit overly dressy for the business casual office, brogues, loafers, chukka boots, and derbies all fit perfectly into the dress code. For very casual days, have a pair of fashionable sneakers in a modest color on hand.
A Few Important Ground Rules For Modern Office Dress
As you're dressing for the modern office, there are a few business casual ground rules you need to keep in mind:
Casual doesn't mean you can be sloppy.
Clothes and shoes need to look great. Clothing still needs to be well-tailored (this is where a custom suit jacket or a custom dress shirt comes into play). Your grooming should be on point, and you need to choose colors that work well for the office.
Don't wear items with stains or rips. Shoes should be cleaned and shined.
Err on the side of formality when you're in doubt.
This is especially critical if you're just starting a new job or you have a big meeting or presentation in the office.
Shirts should be tucked in, but not always.
This is sometimes a tricky one, and there are varying opinions on this. A shirt that is tucked in will always look neater, cleaner, and more professional. But sometimes the weather can be so oppressive that it's just easier to give yourself a little more breathing room. This will vary by region as well. The outer limits of what is acceptable for business casual will go a little further in cities like Miami, Phoenix, and San Antonio than they will in places like New York, Chicago, and Detroit. If you do decide to not tuck in your shirt, just make sure that it is neat, tidy, and fitted properly. The shirt should allow at least your belt buckle to be visible when standing up, not hanging down sloppily and halfway to your knees.
Whether you're looking for business casual attire or you're shopping for a custom suit for formal events, Enzo Custom can help. Contact us today to set up your complimentary private appointment in one of our showrooms.